My daughter loves to pray.
There is no sweeter sound in the world to me than her small voice speaking to Jesus. What’s even sweeter is that she’s still learning to pray so much of her verbiage comes from words and phrases she’s heard others speak. She ends every prayer with “in Your Mighty and Holy Name, Amen” which, we learned, is how her teacher always finishes her prayers. She starts every prayer with “Thank you for this day,” which is how I start out my own prayers. But, lately, I’ve been hearing a new phrase repeated quite often:
“Dear God, I ask for your favor upon me.”
Knowing she had obviously heard the wording somewhere but wanting to make sure she actually understood it, I asked her what she thought it meant.
“That’s easy,” she replied. “I want to be His favorite.”
Although a precious sentiment, after my chuckles, I had to remind my child that God does not, in fact, have favorites. He loves all His children equally.
“Well then,” she asked stubbornly. “What does it mean then?”
And, honest to goodness, I didn’t have answer for her. Does His favor mean His blessings? His undivided attention? Only the best of what He has to offer?
None of those things seemed to quite sum it up, but I found myself unable to articulate the definition in any other way. So, naturally, I did what I always do: I turned to Scripture. And I found several examples within the pages of my Bible of those who were “favored” by God.
In Genesis 6:8, we read that Noah “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
In Exodus 33: 12, Moses speaks to God, reiterating what He had spoken over him: “…You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.'”
In Judges 6, an angel appears to Gideon and Gideon, not understanding or believing his words, asks for a sign that what he has said is true; however, he phrases his request by saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me” (verse 17).
Even in the New Testament, in one of the most famous stories of all, we find Mary, the mother of Jesus, confronted by the angel Gabriel. His greeting to her? “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” (Luke 1:28b).
All of these people, their names preserved for all eternity has having God’s favor. But does that mean they were His favorite? That they had a never-ending shower of blessings? The best of the best of life?
The interesting thing is….no.
In Genesis 6, right after we learn about Noah’s “favor in the eyes of the Lord,” God commands him to build an ark. He asks Moses to travel to Egypt and plead the Israelites case before Pharaoh. Gideon is called on to save Israel out of the hands of the Midianites–with only a few hundred men. And Mary? Mary was called to give birth to the Savior of the world, all while facing the scorn and ridicule that would inevitably accompany her assumed indiscretions.
None of these people described as “favored” by the Lord had easy lives. The designation of “favored” immediately accompanied a call to obedience in a difficult and seemingly impossible task. No, favored did not mean a place on a pedestal, far from the troubles of this world. Rather, it seemed a classification of those through whom God was going to accomplish great things.
Not because of who they were….but because of WHOSE they were.
If we return to Exodus 33, we find out exactly what made these people favored: “…Moses said to him, ‘If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?‘ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked…'” (33: 15-17a, emphasis mine).
Moses recognized that what would set himself–and his people–apart and mark them as favored would be the presence of the Lord with them.
So it was with Gideon, so it was with Mary…and so it is with us. When we are asking for God’s favor in our lives, what we are really asking for is His presence. Because when His presence fills us, surrounds us, and leads us, it doesn’t matter to what difficult act of obedience He may call us or what challenging circumstance may rattle our day. The very God of the Universe–who created us, called us, LOVES us–is right there with us.
Having God’s favor doesn’t mean we won’t have problems. In fact, if we were to look at our Biblical examples, I would say the opposite might be true! But God’s favor means that He is with us every step of any work to which He directs us.
No, I may not be God’s favorite. But because of Christ, I do have His favor. And that, my friends, is something worth praying–and praising–about.